Big flocks of birds

We’re at the time of year when many local birds avoid our harsh Iowa winters by flying south for fun in the sun. Those birds that overwinter will flock together and seek places that are a bit more sheltered than their usual nesting spots. Over the years, we have come to have a large flock of mixed bird types overwinter in the evergreens behind our house. It is an awesome feeling to walk below those lower evergreen boughs near dusk and hear the fluttering of hundreds of wings just above our heads. Of course, for obvious reasons, we try to never walk underneath unless we’re wearing a hat or a hood!

During the past week, we’ve also had a large flock of crows hanging around the acreage. Unlike the birds in the evergreens, these bigger birds swoop in as one big flock and land in one of the fields. At first I wondered what they were doing, since they seemed to spend quite a bit of time in whichever field they chose that day. At first I thought they were grazing — but the sheep have eaten down almost everything green, so I began to doubt that grass was their goal. They always seemed to spend time in the ewes’ fields, so I then thought that perhaps the crows were finding something they liked in the pellets that the sheep dropped. Yet as I walked the areas, I noticed that the pellets seemed undisturbed, so the crows’ fascination with our fields remained a mystery.

Several of our fields contain thousands of pumpkin seeds scattered throughout the dormant grass, all looking like these. Obviously the crows enjoy these pumpkin seeds as much as the sheep — but only the insides!

Yesterday I finally figured it out as I walked the Fire Circle Pasture — a field that these birds particularly seem to enjoy. I was in that area because I’m still breaking pumpkins for our ewes there; and as I walked, I began to notice the pumpkin seeds from the previous days’ broken pumpkins. And those seeds answered my question! Once you see this photo, you’ll understand what the crows are doing in our fields. Obviously, they love pumpkin seeds!

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